New factory could be coming to our area

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

METROPOLIS, Ill. — New jobs and a new plant for new technology.

There is some buzz in our area tonight, as one community learns they just may become the new home to some very cutting edge technology. Thanks to a multi-million dollar grant, Honeywell is looking to build a plant to produce some of the materials that go into high-tech car batteries, the kind used in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Back in 2009, the Department of Energy gave Honeywell $27.3 million as part of the American Recovery Act.

The grant was to make Honeywell the first U.S. producer of lithium hexaflurophosphate.

Honeywell built a pilot plant in Buffalo, New York. They are considering building a second plant and Massac County, Illinois, is high on that list.

Papers from the Department of Energy list two locations for this project, which is partially funded by federal stimulus money. The first one is Buffalo, New York, where Honeywell built a testing facility, and the second one is Metropolis, Illinois.

A company spokesperson hasn't committed to the Metropolis location but we do know Honeywell owns acreage next to their existing Massac County plant and we learned they've tested that site for a new plant.

For the first time in a long time, Massac County chairman Bill Hillebrand is hearing some good news.

"Metropolis, Massac County, very much welcome anything coming in," Hillebrand said.

He's learning Honeywell might build a brand new plant, right next door to its existing facility.

"What I'm wanting to know, is it 100 percent go?" Hillebrand said.

Unfortunately, that answer is no right now. Honeywell isn't 100 percent go yet but Local 6 learned they have tested the site and neighbors are optimistic.

"Just to be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel, that's a ray of hope for us," neighbor Aaron Holman said.

So what is lithium hexafluorophosphate? It turns out it's one of four essential components used to power batteries that power hybrid and electric cars.

"You don't know half the stuff they put in stuff, I guess," resident Bonnie Turner said.

While folks here may not know exactly how hybrid and electric cars work, they realize demand for the batteries that power them will only go up.

"Of course it's going to get more and that would only mean more jobs for us," Holman said.

It could be more jobs and much needed hope for a county that could use some good news.

"It looks real good, very favorable," Hillebrand said.

In a presentation given by Honeywell several years back, it was stated both Buffalo and the Illinois facility would create a combined total of 151 temporary jobs and 34 long-term jobs.

Right now, Honeywell won't go into any specifics on employment numbers.

Honeywell said it's just too early to speculate on when a second facility might be built and that they're still testing the product in Buffalo and have not finalized plans for that second plant.

The total budget for the project is $54.9 million, with $27.5 million coming from federal stimulus dollars.

To see the report given by Honeywell on the lithium hexafluorophosphate plant, click here. For project information from the Department of Energy, click here.

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